HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Madame Bovary
HTS Overall Score:67
Adapted from a French classic, “Madame Bovary” tells the story of Emma (Mia Wasikowska), a romantic girl married off to Charles Bovary (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), a country doctor she’s never met and, in her mind, exiled to relative obscurity. She starts out as a bit nervous, but hopeful, eager to please her new husband by keeping his house the way he likes and reverting to his customs when he benignly comments on how he likes things a certain way, which is not the way she just tried them. As the film progresses, we see her evolve into a more self-pitying sort of creature who has realized her husband’s lack of “progressive mind” or ambition, confessing to her handmaid that she only sees her life as a dark corridor with a bolted door at the end. “Is this God’s will for me,” she asks wretchedly.
In this frame of mind, other less benign characters begin to encroach on her, wishing to use her for their own ends. At first they are subtle, not advancing too strongly should they frighten her back into caution – the slick and flattering merchant Mousier Lheureux (Rhys Ifans) telling her “every moment without the things you love is a moment without love,” and young law clerk Leon Dupuis (Ezra Miller) confessing his ardent attachment to her. She rebuffs both, at first. But both of these feed Emma’s ever ravenous need to feel adored and desired, to be awash in elegance, to transform her life from dreary servitude to sensuous comfort. After an incident with a handsome Marquis (Logan Marshall-Green) leaves her baffled, her attitude changes. She begins to take more and more of their bait, believing that she DESERVES these things, that her life “is all wrong” and she needs to fix it, she descends further into ruin and deceit and desperation.
I’ll admit, “Madame Bovary” repelled me for several reasons. I saw great weakness in Emma, especially with regard to how she viewed her married life. First, she saw it as a means to happiness, and believed she would marry “the right one,” that her life would be spent in comfort, with interesting diversions, and perhaps even purpose. Alas, a new life as a new wife fell very short of her expectations. Charles Bovary turns out to be a simple, traditional, uninteresting country doctor with no drive to change his state in life. He is a man so contentedly entrenched in his habits that he somehow cannot see his new wife’s efforts to please him. Eventually, she comes to view her marriage as a prison, miserable and monotonous and dreary, something to be escaped.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50865[/img]Part of me wants to judge her and say she let her romantic fantasies get to her head, that she set herself up for ruin by thinking life would be all sunshine and roses. But another part of me recognizes myself in her, how my dreams have alternately been dashed or slowly starved into nonexistence. The older, wiser me understands Emma’s frantic struggle against inevitability, yet also acknowledges her futility. You can buy expensive things, pursue younger men or richer men, eat fancy food, even go to glamorous events, but at some point, at some level, you realize it’s doing nothing to drown out the sound of your own wretchedness.
Another reason “Madame Bovary” made me cringe is the level of co-dependency she demonstrates. She bases her emotional state on the emotional state of the man she most wants to love her. For a short while, that was her husband. Soon her attention focused on the rich and glamorous Marquis, and when that turned on its head, she transferred to young Leon. Intermingled with these men was the seedy ministrations of Monsieur Lheureux. With each one she developed a doomed relationship, assuming his affection for her matches hers for him. The men only realized the depth of her obsession when she started gleaning assurances of love or promises to free her from her husband. It’s almost as though you can see the red flag go up in their minds, and they quickly retreat to a safe distance…or exile her from their presence. This throws her back into the dramatics of a “miserable life,” until the next savior appears. It’s like she cannot exist on her own; she must be defined by the finery she owns, the society she keeps, and the man she’s with.
Unlike the movies story, the detail and color are absolutely exquisite….
Rated R for some sexuality/nudity
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50873[/img]“Madame Bovary” comes to Blu-ray looking quite lovely with its period piece veneer. Shot entirely on film stock, instead of the cheaper digital alternative, the image looks very natural and fitting with the period it’s portraying. The movie is always detailed excellently, and the colors are lush and pleasing to the eye, with bright greens, oranges of dresses, and the soft greens and blues of the countryside. Facial details are exceptional and the long shots show a surprising amount of depth and detail to them as well. Black levels are a bit disappointing as they tend to be washed out constantly, with a slightly elevated white level balance. Faces tend to be a bit ruddy red at times, but other than those two mild issues, the disc looks more than satisfactory.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=50881[/img]The 5.1 TrueHD track does the job quite nicely. The period piece setting doesn’t exactly give the audio full reign to rock and roar, but the focus of the movie is on the dialog, and that is most certainly represented quite nicely. Vocals are crisp and clean, clear of any distortion and locked right up front. There’s a surprising amount of detail in the side surrounds as you noticed the crunching of leaves under foot, the rumble of horse’s feet and quite a few other ambient noises. Directionality is good and the front soundstage, as heavily used as it is, leaves nothing to desire. LFE is mild, but adds some low end to a few key moments, and accentuates the score quite nicely. solid A-
While a gorgeously shot film with vivid scenery and costumes, stellar performances, and subtle musical scoring, “Madame Bovary,” at its core, is based on a book whose protagonist willingly sets herself on a destructive path and give no thought to how it will come back on her later. “Madame Bovary” can be interpreted in different ways, from a classic French tragedy to a cautionary morality tale meant to warn young women to beware people who offer them the world for free, and to young men to not get involved with married women. And to husbands who are inclined to let sleeping dogs lie, as it were, and simply go about their normal routine without considering their wives. I feel that Emma Bovary’s downfall was ultimately caused by two things: her inability to adapt when life didn’t turn out the way she imagined, and her refusal to acknowledge the consequences of her behavior, and so her crazed pursuit of all things that she “loves.” I disliked the book when I read it, and I dislike the movie now that I’ve seen it, spectacular color and detail and scoring notwithstanding. The movie itself is decent enough for a low budget take on a classic French novel, but the movie never rises above mediocre besides Rhys Ifan and Mia herself... a cheap rental if you're really into the classics
Starring: Ezra Miller, Rys Ifan, Mia Wasikowska
Directed by: Sophie Barthes
Written by: Felipe Marino (Screenplay), Gustave Flaubert (Novel)
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English: Dolby TrueHD 5.1, English DD 2.0
Runtime: 119 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 4th 2015
Buy Madame Bovary On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Cheap Rental at Best
More about Mike